Of Magic and Memory

Of Magic and Memory

This is an enchanted and enchanting story about Ava, who is trying to make sense of the world after her mother, Ginger, dies. When she discovers that Ginger was caring for Russet, a winged boy, and his twin sister, Ebony, in the forest, she is no longer certain of anything. She becomes close to the twins to learn more about her mother, and in the process begins to care for them deeply.

During this time of grief, a new danger enters VanVere, the forest town where the story is set, threatening Ava, Russet and Ebony. It’s up to Ava to figure out how her own magic works to protect them.

Cristy Zinn is a talented, skilful writer. The imagery is poignant and fresh, the writing lyrical and lush. I loved the world she created. The one thing I wanted more of was the baddies: what they got up to together and perhaps even more wickedness. This is a beautiful fantasy – read it and be enchanted.

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Dragon’s Green

dragons greenEffie Truelove spends her afternoons in her grandfather’s library, desperate to learn magic and the secret behind her mother’s disappearance years before in the strange Worldquake that changed everything.

She is tasked with looking after her grandfather’s collection of rare magical books, but when they fall into the hands of the supremely yucky Leonard Levar, she needs to rescue them. Luckily she has help from her friends – super smart Maximilian, Lexy the healer, Raven whose mum is a famous author, and Wolf, the tough rugby lover – and magical items from her grandfather.

Effie has to travel to the Otherworld to find out what she needs to restore her grandfather’s collection and the secret behind Dragon’s Green.

Dragon’s Green, by Scarlett Thomas, is the first book in the Worldquake Sequence; the next two are coming out in the next two years. You know when Philip Pullman calls a book “ingenious and original… A cracking good yarn fizzing with intelligence,” you really should read it.

Adobe Spark



The Secret of Nightingale Wood

thumb_20161126_171423_1024When I come across a particularly beautiful passage in a book, I mark it with a sticky note, and as you can see from all the cat stickies prowling through my copy of The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange, it’s a remarkable book.

It’s the story of a girl called Henry (I loved it from that moment) who finds comfort and meaning in the world of books. After her family’s life is turned upside down, they move to Hope House to start afresh, but, of course, they don’t.

Henry’s father has gone away for work, and her mother is ill. The vile Doctor Hardy wants to lock her away in Helldon, an asylum where horrific “treatments” await. He even thinks that Henry has inherited her mother’s madness.

Through the book, Henry unravels the secrets of Hope House, discovers what the adults around her don’t want her to know, and in the process lets go of a dark story she’d been holding on to.

This is a beautiful book – both the story and the way it’s written. It is an enthralling read that kept me up past my bedtime.

You can read a preview on her publisher’s website.

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A few recommendations

These past few months, I’ve been reading a lot, but not writing about anything here. So I thought I’d put together a list of a few stand-out books that have delighted my imagination lately.


Murder Most Unladylike

Set in 1934, this is the first Wells and Wong mystery, by Robin Stevens. Imagine Sherlock Holmes and Watson are trying to untangle a murder, but they are schoolgirls, and Holmes is from Hong Kong. This is a lot of fun.

The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth

This is the second book in Katherine Woodfine’s Sinclair’s mysteries – set in the decadent Sinclair’s department store in London. I adored the first book, The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, but The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth didn’t have the same magic for me.


Raymie Nightingale

If you haven’t read Kate DiCamillo, you need to start. This is gorgeously honest, beautifully written and full of hope. All Raymie Nightingale wants is to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition so her dad will see her in the newspaper and come home.

Goodbye Stranger

Rebecca Stead is another favourite author of mine for the way she portrays the interior worlds of her characters. Meet Bridge and her friends, who are figuring out what growing up is all about.

Pea’s Book of Best Friends

There’s no resisting this bubbly, honest, kind story about Pea and her search for a new best friend when her family moves to London. Susie Day writes about the “big issues”, like being a white girl with a black sister and having two moms, with the lightest of touches.

For the Boys


Ben knows all the rules of being a teenager, but he breaks one of the most important: never tell your mum anything. This is Edyth Bulbring in top form.

Liccle Bit

Lamar, known to everyone as Liccle Bit, is just trying to impress a girl and stay out of trouble when he gets tangled up in a gang. Alex Wheatle writes his voice superbly.

The End of the World

Elevation: The Thousand Steps

Ebba lives with her sabenzi in a bunker deep in Table Mountain because the world outside is a wasteland. Only it’s not, as Ebba discovered when she is elevated. You’ll race through this book by Helen Brain.

The Mark

Another one by Edyth Bulbring, and this time she’s taking on the dystopian trope of the chosen one. Juliet, or Ettie, is supposed to follow her fate, which is dictated by the mark on her spine, but she has other plans.

Have you read any of these titles? What did you think of them?

‘She had never felt less afraid. Perhaps, she thought, that’s what love does. It’s not there to make you feel special. It’s to make you brave. It was like a ration pack in the desert, she thought, like a box of matches in a dark wood. Love and courage, thought Sophie: two words for the same thing. You didn’t need the person to be there with you, even, perhaps. Just alive, somewhere. It was what her mother had always been. A place to put down her heart. A resting stop to recover her breath. A set of stars and maps.’

Rooftoppers, by Katherine Rundell

The Fox and the Star

IMG_1326The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith is a beguiling, enchanting fable of Fox and his only friend, Star.

Star is always there to light the path through the tangled thorny forest for Fox, but one night, Star simply vanishes and Fox is all alone and afraid in the dark night.

The writing is deceptively simple yet poetic and the patterned illustrations are gorgeous. Together they make a magical read.

As soon as I held this wonderful clothbound book, I had to have it  (the dangers of being a bibliophile). If you find a copy, treat yourself to it. The Fox and the Star is a book to treasure.

Have you read it yet? What did you think of it?

Fox called out to the forest, to the trees and the leaves, to the beetles and the rabbits, to the tangle of thorns and the life he had left behind: ‘Where did Star go?’

The Fox and the Star, Coralie Bickford-Smith




IMG_1311.jpgWhen Michael first finds Skellig lying in the about-to-fall-down garage at the bottom of his garden, the frail creature is wearing a black suit and is covered in spiderwebs and dead bluebottles and beetles, with only Arthur Itis to keep him company.

Michael brings Skellig Chinese takeaways and brown ale (“sweetest of nectars” Skellig calls them) even though has no idea who, or even what Skellig is. But he’s sure that something very unusual is tucked under Skellig’s dusty jacket.

This is a magical story about learning how to dance and fly, even when life is cruel. It’s about the power of the imagination and dreams. And it’s about friendship and love.

Have you read Skellig? What did you think of it?

Skellig is David Almond’s first book, and the winner of the 1998 Carnegie Medal.